At a time when blood banks and hospitals are calling for significantly more blood donations, over 1,600 Shincheonji church members have donated their plasma after recovering from the coronavirus.
Shincheonji made international headlines back in February when South Korea experienced its first superspreader event. Today, over 4,000 members of the church have fully recovered from the virus.
Ever since the outbreak, the church and its members have committed to help with the fight against the coronavirus. Shincheonji’s head pastor, Lee Man Hee, publicly apologized for the organization’s inability to stop the spread of the virus, but emphasized the importance of working together and his church’s commitment to working together with the South Korean government.
Now, in partnership with the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the recovered patients are able to contribute in a way that most of the country cannot – by donating convalescent plasma. The church expressed these donations as “our way of giving back part of what we have received from the country, from free testing to free treatment.”
What is convalescent plasma and why is it important?
As the global health community is still developing a vaccine, other therapies and solutions are being sought to help COVID-19 patients recover more effectively. One such therapy involves the use of convalescent plasma, or blood plasma from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. The plasma contains antibodies that help fight against the virus.
This approach has been used in previous epidemics such as H1N1 and SARS, and United States President Donald Trump announced an emergency authorization for convalescent plasma treatment in late August. As a result, global demand for convalescent plasma for treatment and research purposes is rapidly rising, and additional donations are required.
But a number of research institutions have expressed a slowdown in donations, partially due to donation drive locations like schools and businesses remaining closed. In addition, people aren’t donating as much because they don’t want to go to medical facilities.
As a result, the fact that thousands of Shincheonji church members volunteered to donate their plasma is a tremendous advancement in plasma research. This generous donation prompted the KCDC to express gratitude for their contributions in the fight against the coronavirus. In addition, these donations were made without receiving any financial compensation. Usually donors are eligible for 300,000 won, or $252, but Shincheonji volunteers did not accept the compensation.
While many more donations are needed to continue to support research and treatment purposes, the Shincheonji church is a strong example of how an organization at the center of an outbreak can participate en masse in the fight against the pandemic. Shincheonji members expressed that they hope this can be a way to encourage other organizations and groups of previously COVID-19 patients to come forward and donate.
COVID-19 is a fight that all of us need to help in. If you have recovered from the coronavirus and would like to donate convalescent plasma, please contact your local blood donation centers to determine your eligibility.